June 12, 2003, 12:00 AM

REI rolls out web-based workforce management across all 66 stores

With its new Workbrain system, the outdoor sports gear and clothing retailer expects to improve productivity and customer service by automatically assigning the most qualified employees to its busiest stores.

REI Inc., the multi-channel retailer of outdoor sports gear and clothing, is implementing a web-based workforce management system designed to increase employee productivity and improve customer service by automatically assigning the most qualified workers based on the particular demand in each of its 66 stores, REI announced at the Retail Systems 2003 Conference & Exposition this week.

REI’s Workbrain for Retail application captures sales activity from POS terminals, then integrates that data with the retailer’s parameters based on employee experience and skill levels, labor laws such as those that limit the weekly or daily hours of young employees, and employee preferences for particular positions and schedules. After processing all that information, the application provides recommended employee assignments and schedules that managers access with a web browser and either accept or change if necessary.

"This is about matching about matching the right employees with expected volumes of customers to better drive sales," Dean Iwata, director of retail business development for REI, tells InternetRetailer.com. He notes that the system estimates store traffic in 15-minute intervals throughout the day. During slow periods, the system will produce lists of recommended small staffs of sales reps who are generally knowledgeable in all or most product categories, Iwata says. But during busy periods, it will recommend larger staffs, including sales reps who specialize in particular categories like canoes, skis or camping gear.

 

REI’s 6,000 employees will also access the system with a browser to enter their names in particular job and time slots and to check final assignments. The system provides REI’s managers with "real-time insight into key labor metrics that they can use to drive consistently high levels of customer service an optimal productivity," Iwata says.

 

Without the Workbrain system, REI managers must pore over spreadsheet records of store sales activity and tri\y to match each store’s needs with available workers. "Some managers spend more than 8 hours per store per week on employee schedules," Iwata says. The Workbrain system does this automatically by pulling and integrating information from POS systems, time-and-attendance systems and other records of labor rules.

 

The system also automates processing of payroll data. When employees sign in through time clocks, POS terminals or other computer terminals, their time and attendance records are automatically calculated through the web-based application into payroll data and routed for manager approvals.

Brad Elder, Workbrain’s director of business development, says users of Workbrain for Retail have reported an average 2% reduction in gross payroll costs, due to fewer processing errors, and a 1-3% increase in top-line revenue due to improved customer service resulting from better allocation of employees.

 

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